“We limit how much technology our kids use at home,” said technology magnate Steve Jobs to a New York Times journalist back in 2010. It was around the time of the Apple iPad launch; the statement sent the journalist reeling.
Experts have long debated the issue of whether or not children’s access to technology should be regulated. Jobs passed away in 2011, but his legacy as an entrepreneur, a businessman, and a father lives on. In today’s social and technological climate, what exactly does it mean to be a “low-tech parent”?
Onstage at the Apple iPad release in 2010, Jobs described it as a “wonderful device” that brought people and educational tools closer together.
New York Times reporter Nick Bilton, shortly thereafter, described an interaction with the entrepreneur. “The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves,” Bilton wrote. He asked Jobs: “So, your kids must love the iPad?”
“They haven’t used it,” Jobs replied. At this, Bilton was lost for words.
“I had imagined the Jobs household was like a nerd’s paradise,” Bilton explained, “that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.”
“Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close,” he wrote.
Two years later, Jobs reiterated his stance by claiming, “Actually we don’t allow the iPad in the home. We think it’s too dangerous for [the children] in effect,” as quoted by Business Insider.
Since then, a plethora of technology entrepreneurs have revealed their own personal aversions to technology in the home, especially where their children are involved.
Leading by Example
Chris Anderson, the former editor of WIRED magazine and current CEO of 3D Robotics, is a father of five. He has also installed time limits and parental controls on every device in his family’s home.
“My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules,” Anderson told The New York Times. “That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand.
“I’ve seen it in myself,” he continued. “I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”
Rule number one in the Anderson household, the CEO explained, is very simple: “There are no screens in the bedroom. Period. Ever,” he said.
Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter and Medium, and his wife, Sara, are equally cautious about technology. They have “hundreds of books” for their boys in lieu of iPads.
Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, offered a different perspective. He and his wife approve of “unlimited gadget use” on one condition: that their teens use communal space and not their bedrooms. Too many time limits, the Costolos believe, could prompt a rebellion.
“When I was at the University of Michigan, there was this guy who lived in the dorm next to me and he had cases and cases of Coca-Cola and other sodas in his room,” Costolo regaled. “I later found out that it was because his parents had never let him have soda when he was growing up.”
The Very Real Dangers of Technology
According to the Child Mind Institute, managing the use of media in the home is one of the biggest challenges of 21st-century parenting.
On-demand gratification from TV shows and video games may have a particular appeal to children with an ADHD diagnosis. Unfortunately, however, absorption in TV or video games does not replicate the same kind of focus that other tasks require.
Dr. John Constantino of Washington University maintains that children with a predisposition toward violence or social withdrawal may be negatively impacted by new technologies, as their access to information and communication becomes limitless.
Social media has long been criticized for upholding unrealistic standards of beauty and success, which could be particularly dangerous for impressionable young minds. Not to mention, technology in its entirety has the capacity to become extremely addictive.
While the arguments for enforcing (some) restrictions on technology may be convincing, many low-tech parents advocate making allowances for children as they get older and need a computer for school.
Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson spent a lot of time in the Jobs household and seemed able to shed light on the rationale behind the entrepreneur’s limits on technology.
“Every evening, Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things,” Isaacson told The New York Times.
“No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer,” he continued, adding, “The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”
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Author: Louise Bevan